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SPRING 2006: Students Take Action to Support Campus Workers; Major Victories Across the U.S.
May 12, 2006

The good news keeps coming and coming! Campus chapters of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) have achieved a number of exciting and important victories. Beginning with the Student Labor Week of Action, students carried out all sorts of creative and effective actions to support struggles of campus workers as well as global garment workers, farmworkers who supply McDonald's, and many others — 257 actions and events in total! University administrators have felt the heat and seen the power of students and workers united! Check out some of the highlights:

» University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL)
On February 28, campus janitors decided to begin a strike for living wages, healthcare, and the right to organize a union. Janitors won a small wage increase and improved healthcare a couple months ago, but Shalala dug her heels and refused to let workers organize a union to have a real voice at work at UM. Students supported striking janitors with an occupation of UM's admissions office, joined janitors' hunger strike, and eventually blocked the main entrance to President Shalala's building 24 hours a day for over a week. Finally, after months of direct action by janitors, students, faculty, and community members, Shalala gave in to the pressure and publicly promised the university would allow the janitors to union by any legal method. Days later, on May 1, janitors and their employer reached an agreement for a fair process for union representation! STAND (Students Toward A New Democracy), the student group actively supporting the janitors, is a chapter of USAS. LWAC has visited the campus three times to work with STAND.
[more on UMiami]

» University at Buffalo (Buffalo, NY)
Students in the UB chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops have been working to support campus workers for almost two years and this spring won a major victory in their campaign. On April 1, 2006, UB adminstrators made an announcement to cease contracting out custodial work at the university. Over the next three years, the contracted janitorial workers will be gradually insourced and in turn represented by the existing union on campus CSEA local 602. Their wages are expected to increase up to $10.60/hour and they will also be receiving state health benefits. While this is great victory, the students are saying that there is still work to be done to ensure that this decision is implemented in a way that respects the current workers, that is, ensuring that they are prioritized for these new unionized positions. The students are demanding that the university move forward in a transparent, fair and just way.
[more on UB]

» University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA)
coming soon
[more on UVA]

» University of Vermont (Burlington, VT)
The Student Labor Action Project chapter at UVM (website) has been organizing in support of campus workers' fight for "livable wages." After trying to dialogue and work with President Fogel, workers and students stepped up the pressure this year with a series of rallies and actions. On April 3, students organized a dance-in inside the President's wing to celebrate the livable wage policy proposal they delivered to Fogel's office at the same event. After Fogel refused to discuss this proposal for over a week, students set up a tent city across the street from his office. Three days later, Fogel had police force students off the lawn, sparking anger from students and faculty over this attack on students' peaceful free speech. Now, with more community support than ever, SLAP will continue supporting workers' fight for livable wages!
[more on UVM]

» Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI)
Students from the Living Wage Campaign Coalition been organizing in solidarity with janitorial and housekeeping staff for the past two years, after WMU's administration subcontracted 60 formerly well-paying, union jobs to the union-busting and poverty wage-paying contractor CSM. After several rounds of meetings with their administration, the LWCC decided it was time to step things up. On April 4th, students and community members awarded President Bailey the prestigious "Best Paid Administrator Award." Studnets presented President Bailey (who makes roughly $370,000 a year) with a check for $7, the hourly wage of some of the hardest working folks on WMU's campus. The LWCC also passed out living wage cupcakes and then threw a huge dance party, complete with rows of folks doing The Hustle. Overall the action was hugely successful, and displayed the broad support and power that the LWCC has. This campaign is certain to hit the ground running when the Fall semester begins!
[more on WMU]

» Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)
Students of the ASU Living Wage Coalition (a USAS chapter) have been pressuring President Crow to rewrite the campus foodservice contract to require contractors to pay dining service workers a living wage, along with a comprehensive list of other basic workers' rights requirements. Undoubtedly due to this pressure, on April 5 Crow announced a raise in the minimum wage for directly-hired ASU employees from $5.15 to $9.00. The Living Wage Coalition points out that this raise does not affect contracted workers (including the foodservice workers they're supporting), they know that Crow has begun to bend to the power of students and workers united!
[more on ASU]

» University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN)
On May 2, students of the Campus Labor Action Project (a USAS chapter) staged a 1-day sit-in outside the office of university president Father Jenkins. Besides getting major attention from local press, the action forced Jenkins to go on the defensive and make a public statement claiming the university was taking the issue seriously. Meanwhile, more and more campus workers have spoken out, calling on the university to increase pay and stop intimidation. The students are prepared to continue the campaign at full throttle next semester!
[more on ND]

Just a couple of the many articles written on the living wage actions this semester:
"Students and Janitors Unite for Justice" - April 21, 2006 - The Nation
"Despite Arrests; U-Va. Students Devoted to Bettering Workers" - April 19, 2006 - Washington Post


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